Wednesday, February 4, 2009

"Is your horse for sale?"

You're at a show, and you have a great day with your horse -- the trailer is lined with ribbons, mostly blue. You're relaxing in your folding chair, and notice someone standing in front of you. "My daughter is looking for a high end [dressage/jumping/hunter] and she loves the horse you brought today. Is he for sale?"

There are two options, really.

  • If the horse is Harvey (or your horse of a lifetime), selling is out of the question. You say:
  • "Sorry. He just isn't the kind of horse you sell. But thank you."
  • If, anywhere in the recesses of your brain, you imagine for a moment that you might part with your horse if it was a good home, force yourself to answer something like this: Well, everything's for sale." Shrug, smile.

"But I love my horse!"
Yep, I hear ya. I love Riley a lot, and my heart melts a little every time I see him. But he doesn't hold the same place in my heart that Harv does -- at least not yet. A tiny part of me can envision selling him, IF...
  • I discover that Riley doesn't like dressage but is suited to jumping or
  • IF a buyer offers me more than he is realistically worth.
Are you surprised I'm saying this? Here are some experiences that shaped my thinking...

Danny the show jumper
An acquaintance of mine bought an appendix quarter horse as a 3 year old. She trained him herself and eventually competed him in 3'6"/3'9"' jumpers. They cleaned up at every show one season. After one particularly good day, my friend got a 50K offer, no vet check. It was more than the horse was worth, in her opinion. But she liked him and was having fun. She said 'no.' A year later, the horse was diagnosed with navicular changes and was retired. She is still kicking herself. She'll tell anyone who will listen not to turn down a good offer. "I could've bought a horse with straight legs!" she laments.

Dijou the dressage horse
I contacted the owner of a 1/2 sister to Riley, a mare that shared the same mom as Riley. The mare was competing at Prix St. Georges as a 7 year old, and I wanted to get the scoop from the owner. In a phone call, she told me she had sold the mare. She loved the mare, but they offered "an outrageous sum of money." She told me many stories of how special the mare was -- she could ride her bareback with a halter, she was child safe under saddle, etc. I marveled that this woman could part with that horse she so clearly loved. Her answer was, "She has a great home and she's doing great. I needed her more than she needed me! There is always another horse."

Elise the broodmare
On a horse breeder's forum, a breeder asked other breeders if she should sell her best mare (she had received a good offer). Almost EVERY breeder said SELL, because you can bargain to retain breeding rights, and there are many great broodmares out there. The money is an opportunity to improve your stock. In the end, they advise the breeder to sell her risky venture and opt for money in the bank.

A parting thought...
In Europe, there is a saying that when you go to see your horse, you can't be certain whether you'll find him "toes up or toes down." If you think of horses as primarily a financial investment, or if you feel your horse can lead a happy life under someone else's care, this makes good sense. It's harder when you love your horse like a child, as so many of us do. I suspect most of us would try to do what is best for our horse -- just like good moms!


  1. 'An acquaintance of mine bought an appendix quarter horse as a 3 year old and competed him in 3'9"/4' jumpers.'

    Huh, wonder why he went lame!

    I wonder if I could part with my older horses... but I could probably let go of the baby. ^^

  2. OOOPS! She bought him at three, but he didn't compete at that level until he was 9 or 10. And, I asked my friend -- the max was 3' 6" -- which is also an accomplishment.

  3. Thank god! lol when I read that I was thinking, 'holy hell!'


  4. I'm just in the process of selling ahose that I adore but don't get on with well once i'm riding him. It's taken me five years to figure it out, but we will both be happier elsewhere.

  5. Interesting post Stacey! Well, at any rate, to have someone approach you saying they would like your horse has to be the highest compliment to the work you have done with them, so even if you don't want to sell it isn't all bad! :)

    I've often pondered this thought about my boys, even the one I've only just purchased back (who I sold mid 2008). As much as I love them, I don't own a property and I know full well they won't be retiring under my ownership unless I'm no longer agisting. However, even if I DID have a property I think I would always be open to selling to the right home. I've had one sale go heartbreakingly wrong but I've learned my lesson about how to ensure your horse is going to the best home and how to keep tabs on them.

    When I was younger we only ever leased horses meaning that often I'd only get to have them for 9months to a year. I think having to say goodbye to horses I loved has prepared me for being able to do the same with horses I own NOW, as a young adult. I do believe that if someone offered me what I saw as a fair price for my boys, I'd take it and buy two more horses off the track, or an OTTB and a dressage warmblood to compete on - but I do get the "itch" these days. I hit a level and go, right, I've fixed this horse now, I want to do another one!

    Having said that, it would have to be a very good price and an exceptional home for those two, especially Louis - he's one of two horses out of the seven I've had that I've truly bonded with. But at the end of the day, I've discovered I have a passion for fixing/retraining OTTBs as I get so much satisfaction out of changing a horse's destiny for the better, and I know that the longer I hold on to one horse, the more horses I'm missing out on "fixing" as time goes by. I can't win, if I didn't have to agist I could have them all! :)


  6. I can't imagine ever selling my horse...unless...he would be better off in another home. Guess that goes back to that good mom thing you mentioned. On the other hand if someone walked up to me and offered me a lot of money for my husbands horse...he'd be long gone. Just kidding. Kinda.

  7. Thanks Cat! I should point out that the opening paragraph is a hypothetical -- no one has ever offered to buy Harvey, astounding as that may seem given his marvelosity. I suspect would-be buyers were driven away by my obvious devotion ;-)

  8. Heh, heh! Yes, I would be willing to sell a few horses out of our boarding barn ;-)

  9. In past years I would buy horses to train and resell. Now I have "lifers". That does not mean that I wouldn't sell them...
    I love them dearly but I always liken horses to children. They grow up and move on. I feel that I can only take them so far and a new owner could raise them to their next level. Besides, even though you may love the horses you have, there are always others, just as loveable, and sometimes better suited.
    This is not to say that I have never regretted the sale of a horse, however.
    Good post.

  10. One of my horses for sure, my event horse - it would have to be a good chunk of money and the right person - but of course, they could both be bought.

  11. I know why you feel that if offered a sweet sum for Riley you'd seriously consider. It's because you still have Harvey. Even if you sold Riley, you'd still have your buddy. The horse you have the deepest connection with.

    I was in a similar place when I bought Monty 10 years ago. I still had my old mare, Alta. Alta could no longer be ridden but she had been 20 years of my life and as long as I had her, any other horse was just "the one I could ride", Alta had my heart. Monty was a green 4 year old and the idea was to train him up, show him and sell him on for a profit.

    And then I lost Alta to colic. And Monty became my focus, my best friend and took my heart. Many times as my life changed I thought to sell him and my husband told me "No, he's irreplaceable. Maybe you don't have as much time for him but he's sane, sound, safe and he knows you and there is no price to put on that." He was right.

    But in light of what happened to him, I wonder, what if I had trained him up and sold him on, when he was young and had no tumors? Well, sure, I would have made money and someone else would be dealing with the heartbreak of his melanoma condition. I also know that by staying with me, when his condition continued be aggressive, he wasn't dumped at an auction or left to suffer and starve in a field somewhere. I did the humane thing when there was no other realistic option. Would he have been so fortunate with someone else? My conscience is clear.

    So now I am without any horse and hating treading the waters of horse buying. It's so hard when you know what you had was priceless, you know how little funds you have to work with to replace what you had and you know you can't afford to get "taken".

    In my opinion, the quote I stand by is this, "a good horse is worth more than riches". If you have the "good" horse-for you, keep him.

  12. Love the topic. We have had several projects that end up staying with us, which is why we have more ponies than we need. We also have the habit of taking back ponies that don't work out for their new owner. We have one pony that may be a lifetime member of our family, simply because we haven't found that special person that really meshes with her. I will say that it is fun to bring a project along, and you always hope that they find a good home, but it is hard when people come and look and you think in your head, "no way, this person is not taking my horse" but there are also the people that come out and try the horse and you know that they are a perfect match. It is family that calls you and lets you know that they love the horse, or even better, the family that boards the horse at your barn so you know exactly how well they are getting on and what they are improving on. On the flipside, there is the pony that gets resold a couple of months after they buy him. I am not saying that you can't sell your horse to a good home, but it is never a guarantee, which is why I struggle with actually selling them. Of course, I do think that we all dream about someone offering an exorbitant sum, which gives you the choice to either turn it down, or take the money.

  13. I was blog walking and stumbled on your site.

    I've been asked that question before. My reply is easy, since I wouldn't sell my horse for a million dollars (my husband might...I'd have to keep him out of the picture!).

    Anyway, I'm a children's author and new to blogging. Please come visit!

  14. Thanks so much for your kind comments. I have two passions. One is riding. The other is getting kids excited about reading and writing.

    I do lots of school visits. During my lunch time, I ask to see the kids who "can't write"...those are the ones with ideas locked inside. I get goosebumps just thinking about them.

    Please share my blog with others! I'll come back to visit you often.

    Oh! Back to horses. I show my horse pleasure driving and have just started training level dressage. I'm obsessed!

  15. Jan, When I was in elementary school I wrote a few poems (kid-poems about horses) that got a good deal of recognition in the school system, but I don't remember any real encouragement of creative writing even after I was "discovered." Kids have highly developed "input receptors" but we don't do so well in helping them express themselves. So glad to hear you're having influence on today's youth. And learning dressage too. I liked the picture of your horse :-).

    Have you signed up for They have an education category, and that helps get the word out about your blog.


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